Doggy Poo Review
Based on a popular children's tale this short animated film from South Korea takes on the viewpoint that every creation on God's green earth serves a purpose of some kind, and in this case a doggy poo is brought to life on our screens as we see the him ponder his very existence and purpose in the grand scheme of things. Presented as a series of vignettes, we see the young poo go from conception as a chirpy pup relieves himself on the side of a country road, to his discovery of an ultimate purpose in life. Along the way he meets several other characters including a lump of soil that has lost its owner, a leaf that is facing its final destination as that inevitable gust of wind comes along and a mother hen who considers the young poo to be unsuitable sustenance for her chicks.
Presented via a mixture of relatively simple claymation for the central doggy poo character and beautifully detailed secondary characters and miniature sets, the life of poo spans several seasons and could almost be mistaken for a series of educational shorts. For each and every character he meets we learn something about their contribution to nature, from the soil that soaks up water and provides nourishment to plants and vegetables to the leaf whose lifespan is documented as it goes from being under the protection of its mother tree to an inevitable death as winter comes. The poo will ultimately discover its purpose when a dandelion sprout emerges beside him, and though it could be considered a spoiler I think anyone will realise that within the countryside setting poo has a far greater purpose as fertilizer than the menace it is considered in cities and built-up areas.
Betraying its Korean heritage the film is heavily laced with melodrama, from the very emergence of poo and the mocking he faces from the lump of soil that drops down beside him, the actor delivering the accompanying voice performance lays on the tears and seeks your pity. A continuous and quite beautiful piano led score takes us through the delicately paced short and adds to the visual splendour, while also bolstering the generally commendable performances and situations that do their very best to make a heartfelt connection with the viewer. Unfortunately for me the emotional connection that is being attempted felt very forced, which coupled with the slightly whiney nature of the young poo had me thinking of the altogether less satisfying Korean animation Oseam. But where the latter piled on the teary melodrama and overstayed its welcome this just about strikes the right balance and is over before you know it.
While Doggy Poo never quite makes the impression on your outlook in life that it so obviously wants to, it does succeed in creating the cutest pile of shit I've ever seen before coupling it with endearing characterisation and delivering a message we can never see enough of: no matter how ugly or worthless you think you are there is something greater and far more beautiful out there for you to find. Well it's a message I like anyway...
Released through Central Park Media, Doggy Poo is available in DVD and DVD+OST form. The latter includes the Soundtrack CD for what equates to a few extra pounds, and considering the score is absolutely superb you would be foolish to go for the DVD only edition.
Picture and Sound
Presented in the original 4:3 Full Screen aspect ratio the transfer here is utterly superb with the exception of one or two minor niggles that will vary depending on your display device. It would seem the transfer source has not been reduced down to DVD resolution effectively, as the exquisitely detailed miniature backgrounds are absolutely overflowing with detail but it is in these areas that you can see aliasing effects around the cross hatched barns and other closely grouped minute details. The effect is mainly noticeable on a low-res television display that has trouble coping with the level of detail on offer, while on my PC monitor the aliasing all but disappears leaving you with an utterly fantastic transfer exhibiting crisp shadow detail, deep blacks and impressively high detail levels. The only issue which may then spoil your enjoyment of the film is some fluctuation in the image contrast, something that is almost certainly a result of the stop-motion animation technique which is made up of hundreds of still images, and was so minor I could only see it on my PC monitor (with my television display not picking up on the fluctuations).
The thirty-minute film is actually stored on the disc three times with Korean titles/language on one version, English titles/language on another with the third including the multi-angle storyboards detailed in the extra features section. The option of Korean and English dubs and choosing which to view is confused by the fact they were produced simultaneously by the Korean production studio so it’s hard to know which is considered the original. For the pilot featured in the extra features English was the language of choice, I went with the Korean dub however and found it to be very well suited to the animation. What little I sampled of the English dub also seemed to be good, though the soil character's localised 'farmer' accent was a little too humorous for my tastes. Whichever you choose only a 2.0 Stereo option is provided, which considering the soundtrack was produced in 5.1 is a shame, but to be honest I wonder how much the soundstage would be used beyond some added ambience to the wonderful score and weather sound effects. On the stereo tracks featured here everything sounds beautifully crisp with fine separation across the instrumental backing pieces and character dialogue, so unless 5.1 really is a necessity I wouldn't fret too much.
Optional English subtitles on the Korean version offer a literal translation and are easy to read with no spelling mistakes, though I was disappointed to find they did not extend to the song featured at the end (though strangely they did pop up to accompany the chorus of the song which features over the end credits).
A fine selection of extra material is available for your perusal and begins with a tightly edited Making of Doggy Poo documentary that runs for 25-minutes and constantly engages you as it delves into the production process. Taking us from the films origins through the complex animated procedures employed and the final touches including music, voices and post production digital effects we are constantly treated to behind-the-scenes footage and a detailed narration (fully subtitled as this is an original Korean documentary).
Alternate Angle Storyboards are available for the entire feature and have been synched as closely as possible to the final animation which can be viewed by switching angles, most impressively however full optional subtitles are included to translate the directors original handwritten notes. On a longer feature this is not something you'd be likely to watch in one sitting, but here the short running time makes it more accessible and a most welcome addition.
The original Doggy Poo pilot is what secured the production studio with numerous award headings to add to their work, and no doubt helped them to fund the final product as we see here. The presentation is near flawless with a crisp transfer that actually suffers none of the aliasing seen on the main feature due to slightly weaker production values that result in a less detailed animation process, while the actual content amounts to what could be used as a trailer for the final effort.
Rounding out the bonuses is a trailer, author biography, music video (non-anamorphic widescreen and worse still, non-subtitled) and three animated galleries that feature tunes from the wonderful original score and high resolution stills of the background sets, the final production and behind-the-scenes.
Ideal for children (once they get over the title) but equally appealing to adults this is a fresh take on a popular philosophical theme that while not wholly successful, features some stunning visuals, delightful music and entertains during its short run time. The disc is mostly very good in the technical department and offers a fine set of extras that allow you to delve into the complex production process of animated movies.